Once a year, we are able to recognize and celebrate OCD Awareness Week. This is one week out of the year that we can take some time and engage in a conversation about what OCD is, and what OCD is not. Most importantly, this time allows us to learn, recognize, and destigmatize something 2-3% (1 in 40 adults & 1 in 100 children) of the population struggles with everyday or every year (http://beyondocd.org/ocd-facts).
Obsessions are characterized as intrusive thoughts that warrant a lot of attention and create much distress for the individual. Compulsions, even though they can be of thought, are behaviors that serve to reduce the amount of distress the individual experiences due to the obsessions. Mental compulsions (i.e. checklists, verification and assurance seeking) can be experienced with those who have Pure O OCD. The process from intrusive thought to relief may look something like this: (Triggers may include events or intrusive thoughts)
Many people who struggle with OCD spend countless minutes and hours a day trying to relief themselves of the intrusive thoughts that they struggle with day-in & day-out. Compulsions are the most "efficient" means of doing so; however, over time they can become more elaborate and time consuming.
This is much different than being particular. A particular individual may be, to some degree, neurotic regarding their things or the way their life proceeds. What differentiates these individuals from other, in my estimation, is a couple of things.
1. Particular individuals have the ability to continue with their day or events of the day without being derailed when something "isn't right." Particular individuals may feel a slight amount of distress (3 or 4 out of 10), but still be able to concentrate and complete tasks throughout their day; only to be distress when they are reintroduced to the event or environment that "isn't right."
2. Individuals who are particular do not engage in compensatory behaviors to relief the stress elicited by things not going as they expect. Sure, maybe they'll whine and complain about things for a bit, but eventually can move on with their day, only to address it later.
Of course there are many other things that can differentiate individuals who are particular versus obsessive compulsive, but those are the most glaring differences: The ability one has to move past without getting "stuck".
One way we help individuals who struggle with obsessive compulsive disorder is by exposing them to situations and events that elicit their particular brand of obsessions, while also inhibiting their ability to engage in compulsions. For example:
A common presentation of OCD is contamination fear. If a client presents with the fear of touching objects due to their perceived threat of contracting HIV, we ultimately would encourage them to touch unfamiliar objects and inhibit their ability to engage in their compulsive behaviors (i.e. hand washing, hand sanitizing, etc.). We achieve this over the course of weeks and months in a hierarchical fashion. Professionals trained in exposure therapy with response prevention (ER/P) focus on creating hierarchies that are idiosyncratic (i.e. particular to presenting issues) and desensitizing in nature (i.e. small steps over the course of treatment to overcome their fear).
During the later stages of treatment we focus on relapse prevention and follow-up consults. Treatment is available for those in need, and a great resource is the International OCD Foundation (https://iocdf.org/ocd-finding-help/find-help/). Another great resource for information regarding OCD is the Peace of Mind Foundation (www.peaceofmind.com). If you'd like to know more about intrusive thoughts and the variety of presenting issues related, you can visit Intrusive Thoughts website (www.madeofmillions.com). They have even created an interactive chat bot named Pax.
If you're in the Edmond or Oklahoma City area and find you, or somebody you know, needs help with OCD or other related presentations, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or by phone at 405-513-0282.